13 OCTOBER 1961, Page 32

Consuming Interest

Out of the Air

By LESLIE ADRIAN AN air terminal these days looks more like a railway station, or rather a coach station, than any ageing pioneer of immed- iate post-war air travel could have imagined. It has the familiar atmo- sphere of faintly worried casualness; and it is 6N1) cheap enough for it to harbour a representative crowd of travellers.

Air travel has arrived, if not for `the masses' then for the growing mass of ordinary folk who would not be flattered by the description. People fly from London to Liverpool or Manchester, from Belfast to Birmingham or Glasgow, with no more concern than they would feel at a rail- way journey. Many people who now take flying for granted would probably never have done so without the activities of charter flights, and independent cut-rate airlines outside the BEA and BOAC net.

I have recently sat at the rear of a charter plane on a flight to Copenhagen, unable to hear the stewardess when she was ostensibly instruct- ing us about the emergency procedure. Not long ago, on a charter flight to Milan, we had to come down at Lyons (where the temperature-was over 100 deg. F) to refuel, and were delayed there nearly an hour. This was a four-hour flight, but not even a cup of tea was offered to the passen- gers. It was a cheap flight, but what would fifty cups of tea cost? These are irritations; and since one can be just as irritated by, say, BEA treat- ing one like a little baby child if you ask for any information, however reasonable (such as why it has unexpectedly taken thirty-five minutes to unload), the irritations alone would not be enough to make one give up the lower fares of the independents. Safety is another matter.

We hear a lot, and this weekend have heard even more, about fatal air accidents. Are the Independents less safe than the publicly owned corporations?

As a fairly frequent user of airlines myself I have tried to gather some facts and figures which may help to answer these questions. In the last five years the number of passenger-miles flown by British airlines has almost doubled, from 2,103 million in 1956 to 3,963 million in 1960, with this year's figure showing signs of being proportion- ately greater. In Europe BEA flew 1,352 million passenger-miles in 1960, and up to August this year had reached 1,075 million. The indepen- dents, whose figures for regular flights are measured from March to March, completed 1,151 million passenger-miles in 1960-61, compared with 866 million in the previous twelve months.

British European Airways have had only six accidents involving deaths in the years 1956-61. There were three in 1957, but only one killed passengers, when a Viscount 701 crash-landed at Ringway. There were also three in 1958, two including passengers. One was the tragic charter accident at Munich, when the returning football players were killed; the other was the collision with the Italian Air Force jet fighter over Naples airport. Since October, 1958, BEA have had no fatal accidents.

Ninety-nine passengers on independent flights have been killed during that time. These were the victims of three accidents—at Barcelona and Stavanger and Sunday's disaster in the Pyrenees. There were no independent airline passen- ger casualties in 1958, thirty-four in 1957 and none in 1956. On the whole then, it seems that flying is as safe as most other means of trans- port. Probably safer than private motoring. Deaths per million passenger miles on BEA work out at (officially) 0.8. The ratio for the indepen- dent airlines up to August (my calculation) is 1.25.

What may have helped to undermine public confidence in the independents is the frequency with which companies go out of business. Aquila (the flying-boat people), Falcon and Overseas Aviation (Cl), against whom there was a receiving order bang in the middle of the tourist season. Again, there have been too many instances of makeshift procedures in the operation of some charter companies, for example, the conduct of the pilot and airline operator recently fined for not observing the safety code. Events like this, coupled with per- sonal experience of the discomfort that attends so many journeys in obsolescent aircraft, do last- ing damage to the privately operated airlines.

On the principle that wise parents know it is never too soon to start stocking up for the Christmas Stocking, I hope to be forgiven for anticipating even Mr. Holly—whose appearance in Oxford Street marks the official opening of the present-hunting season.

Anyhow, if I held my peace any longer about the bewitching little stocking fillers offered by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt, they would all be snapped up by those sensible Mums and Dads who make a visit to the toyshop of Wimpole Street the first ritual of the Christmas season.

At the back of the shop, in the book section, there's a profusion of small toys, well made but costing (on average) about 3s. and never more than 6s. I saw a small girl's stitching set (scaled to suit clumsy little fists) for 2s. lid., a doll's cutlery basket (including cutlery) for the same price, and I bought a 3s. 6d. clockwork 'fric- tion' loco, complete with siren, which terrifies the neighbour's cat.

A miniature wooden train (engine, tanker, log truck and guard's van) with working wheels for 4s. 11d., a box of picture dominoes (5s.), an agile clown swinging on a trapeze (5s. 6d.) and a 2s. 9d. magnet—such toys have all the Christmas- morning magic, but cost less than a pound of the second-best butter. Personal shoppers only.


Perhaps I have a more than usually suspicious mind, but when I find manufacturers tagging their products with swing tickets of triangular shape, printed in black and white in a certain pattern, I am draWn to the conclusion that they hope that this label may be mistaken for a Design Centre award.

I have seen only one so far. I intend to collect those that 1 see and send them to the Centre„ Then they can talk it over.


The telephone is rapidly becoming an expcn' sive luxury, with the standing charge up to .£14. And with Subscriber Trunk Dialling those of us who use the instrument for far but not few calls are liable to find ourselves in Carey Street. The twopenny telephone is going to deal our finances a fourpenny one, if we don't bear in mind that time is money.

A new gadget just put on the market by Smiths Clocks and Watches is going to be a great com- fort. It looks a bit like a kitchen timer. When set at the beginning of a call it ticks off the cost at the three-minute, twenty-second or twelve' second rate, and sounds a warning bell at the end of each three-minute period. The GPO are no longer going to use the warning pips. Another little helper in keeping down the cost of chatter is the dialling timer marketed by Louis New- mark, the Fonetimer. It looks like a stumPY fountain pen, and can be used to dial the number, like an extra finger. It stands freely in the dial hole, and ticks off the minutes when the cap j5 pushed down to cover a set of six coloured seg- ments. Each minute the cap rises, uncovering another segment, but there is no audible warn- ing. The first of these costs 37s. 9d., the second 27s. 6d.